Tara Levesque

The Year in Pages

It's no secret I am a voracious reader.  I read all the time.  I read everything.  I read all genres.  Also no secret is how much I love suggesting good reads to people.  Yes, I'm THAT person.  For the last couple of years I've been posting my Top 10 Favourite Reads of the past year (you can find lists for 2014 here).  Usually I agonize over which books to cut out of the list.  This year, I am seriously struggling to even find 10 worth including.  2015 was NOT my year of the great amazing reading journey.  Every new book I picked up I would hope and pray would be THE ONE (like my "Arcadia" in 2013 or my "Life After Life" of 2014) and it never, ever was.  Not to say that I didn't find a few gems cuz I totally did.  I just didn't find that book to treasure which is difficult for someone like me to accept. 

So all that said, here's a list of 10 books I read in 2015 that I did like and I've also included some books I hoped to love and just didn't (cuz it's also fun to talk about why you DIDN'T love something too right?)

 

The History of Love -- Nicole Krauss

When forced to pick the book of the year this book is the clear and obvious winner.  The title is unfortunate and yet completely fitting and this book is hugely quotable and poetic from start to finish.  The plot is difficult to condense down but it centres around a character named Leo Gursky who quickly becomes one of those literary characters that you don't soon dismiss -- like an Owen Meany or T.S Garp (Yes, Irving has that gift it seems).  He is old and grouchy and once upon a time had a love for the ages and wrote a book about it.  The book takes on a life and path of its own, affecting generations that come after.  My daughter chose this book for me as a Christmas gift because she liked the way the words looked on the cover and I loved it because the way Krauss seemed to make every word matter and makes you wish Gursky was writing about you.

 

 

Yes Please -- Amy Poehler

I know, I know -- Amy was the "It" girl of 2015 (and arguable a couple years before that) with this book and it was everywhere and everyone said she was following up on Tina Fey's success with her "Bossypants" book but hey, you know what? Amy did it better.  Way better.  And there's a reason this book was everywhere -- because it was fantastic.  This was the kind of book you would read on the bus to work and make a spectacle of yourself cuz you'd be laughing so hard.  "Yes Please" is really SO funny, SO charming, SO intelligent.  There are chapters that are also heartbreaking and sad and serious.  As a reader, I identified with this bio in a huge way.  It seemed every feeling she had, I shared.  Pretty much every woman I know read this book last year and despite my attempts, I couldn't get a man to read it and that's a real shame.  There is something in this book for everyone and her take on the world is something worth immersing yourself in.  I want to be Amy Poehler when I grow up.

 

Fragile Things -- Neil Gaiman

Probably safe to assume there will just BE a Neil Gaiman book on this list every year.  (Remember this little bit of perfection from last year's list?).  Dating way back to 2010, the only flaw in this book is that I didn't read it sooner.  It's a collection of short stories (and you know I love those), each one more fantastic and dreamy than the one before.  They're dark, they're scary, and they leave you with the weirdest dreams as a result.  The best part is the accompanying texts from Gaiman himself about the origin of each story -- gives a very cool glimpse into what must be a strange mind to live with on a daily basis.  The fact that he can write for both adults and children with such skill and ease, with both products being so excellently well-crafted leaves me in awe.  I just think everything he writes is magic.

 

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertant Education of a Reluctant Chef -- Gabrielle Hamilton

Another bio I piled on my nightstand (but a book I actually gifted to my husband for Christmas) that turned out to be not only a really excellent story about a super interesting person BUT also a really delicious book in general.   Mainly it's the story of acclaimed chef Gabrielle Hamilton but turns out to be a really engaging story about marrying into a family with a different ethnicity than your own and what really goes on in kitchens everywhere -- restaurant kitchens, farm kitchens, family kitchens.  And it also makes you hungry while you read it.  If you're not nuts about reading biographies don't worry, this one kinda feels like reading fiction.

 

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore -- Robin Sloan

This book was a really fun treat to stumble across.  I didn't see it on a list or read a review, it's from back in 2013 and it just kind of fell outta the realm of my Goodreads app newsfeed and into my lap.  It's SO fun!  The Goodreads review I wrote said it's like The DaVinci Code for bibliophiles except well-written and worth reading.  Pick this up if you love dusty old bookstores, secret societies and a bit of the fantastical thrown in for good measure.  Weird stuff happens in this place.

 

Us Conductors -- Sean Michaels

A novel inspired by the life of Russian scientist and inventor of the theremin Lev Termin?  I know, I'm asleep already right?  But you guys -- this guy was wicked cool.  He not only invented the weirdest instrument we have but was also a spy for the KGB who invented listening devices used during the War and went on to be a Professor of Acoustics at the Moscow Conservatory.  For reals, this guy would've been the coolest guy you knew by a longshot.  It bounces between the Soviet Union and New York City and doesn't lose you for a second of the journey.   For a first novel, this one will be hard to top.  

 

Better Living Through Plastic Explosives -- Zsuzsi Gartner

Another collection of stories that, admittedly, won't be for everyone.  Gartner writes no-holds barred satire to the point of  border line ridiculousness.  It's funny -- really, really funny.  And also wicked smart and pretty shameless.  This is a great book to pick up if you find yourself in a moment of all-consuming society shaming misanthropic glory.  Grab this and go down the rabbit hole.  

 

 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer -- Mark Twain

Now this is a bit of a cheat because I have read this before but not since I was a kid so much of its great qualities were lost on me as a young reader.  I picked this up in the middle of a string of disappointing reads and decided (mostly out of necessity) to step away from the snooty book reviews, the book club picks and the latest depressing coming of age tale of the moment.  I needed a "palate cleanser" of sorts and this did just that.  It was incredibly satisfying to step back into this world of adventures and immerse myself into that whirlwind of childhood emotions.   I should try to do this more often.

 

Grace: A Memoir -- Grace Coddington

This one is also a bit of a cheat because it's really not that good of a book.  It's very simply written, it jumps around a lot and not in a way that always makes sense and, as a memoir, you don't really learn much about the subject that you don't already know.  Confession: I have a bit of a weakness for high fashion couture and all the drama and art that goes along with it.  And a guilty pleasure like that doesn't come without a healthy obsession with Grace Coddington, the woman behind the woman at Vogue.  She looks like a crazy gypsy and is the only person who can tell Anna Wintour where to stuff it.  If you've seen the documentary "The September Issue" (and you should cuz it's great) it's hard not to be taken with her.  I devoured this book despite it being a beast and way longer than it needed to be. 

 

Girl in a Band: A Memoir -- Kim Gordon

One last biography to round out the list this year.  I think I read more bios this year than I've read in my whole life.  I thought this book was great, despite what everyone said.  Was it AS good as I hoped it would be?  Probably not.  But considering I think Kim Gordon is probably the coolest woman on the planet, it's hard to say if any bio would've made her seem as cool as she already is in my head.  It's chock full of music nerd fodder and equally full of petty gossip about her fellow music industry friends as well as FULL of gossip about her marriage to Thurston Moore (who famously cheated on her for years with his book editor).  But gossip aside, it's also a killer story about New York City and the music scene that they came up in and then ultimately ruled.  

 

Honourable Mentions

Dorothy Must Die -- Danielle Paige

I try to read at least a couple Young Adult fiction books in a year because I have a pile of young nieces and nephews who read and I love gifting them with books that I think are actually good (like the Wildwood books -- sigh) so I like to cover my bases.  This book is part of a series that tackles the Land of Oz but under the premise that Dorothy took a bit of a nasty turn and turned Oz into a place of bloodshed and fear.  Very fun stuff.  I only read the first book but I would for sure follow this series.  It's a good bit of escapist fun to be sure.

 

Books I Wanted to Love But Didn't

The Paying Guests -- Sarah Waters

I was SO excited to read this and wanted to read it for about a year before I finally got my hands on it.  It was such a disappointment for a lot of reasons but mostly because for some reason I though this book was about something COMPLETELY different and for that reason I spent most of the book trying to shake that disappointment.  And the book just wasn't compelling enough to help shake that off.  *shakes fist at Heather from Chapters*

 

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden - Jonas Jonasson

The first half of this book had me.  100%.  I could not put it down.  Then........it all just stopped and languished for a couple of hundred pages.  What a letdown.

 

A God in Ruins -- Kate Atkinson

Considering that "Life After Life" is one of the best books I've ever read, I had VERY high hopes for this companion book.  Granted, this book had huge shoes to fill and loving it as much as LAL was unlikely, I still thought I would love it more than I did.  To be fair, the last few chapters of this book are really, really lovely but they just didn't make up for the rest of the book just being lacklustre.  Also I read so much WWII fiction this past year that it was an uphill battle for this book already.

 

All the Light we Cannot See -- Anthony Doer

EVERYONE loved this book.  I really wanted to love it too.  I liked it a lot, to be fair.  This book has some really magical moments  and the parts with Marie-Laure hiding in her attic are pure genius. But again, it was yet another WWII book at the end of what felt like 15 WWII books and I just couldn't do it.  In hindsight, I should've left this until next year maybe.  

 

So that about sums it up for 2015.  I have high hopes that 2016 will bring me THE ONE that it didn't last year.  Maybe it's the one I'm reading right now??

 

 

 

 

 

Raising butterfly babies...

So when I'm not Copperworking, I've got this sort of side project called "Milkweed for Monarchs" happening through the generous support we received from the Project Impact Initiative back in the spring.  You may remember me going on about how cool this undertaking was and all the cool little community betterment projects that came out of it.  

Anyway, so we've been spending the summer harvesting wild milkweed seeds and growing them in our greenhouses, rescuing mature milkweed plants from the side of the French River highway expansion and finding homes for all of them all over town.  People have been generously stepping up and donating yard and garden space and creating little milkweed "waystations" for the struggling Monarch butterfly population.  This plant, in case you maybe didn't know, is the only food source for the Monarch and the only plant on which they lay their eggs and they are rapidly losing this habitat due to urban expansion etc.  

We have been so pleasantly surprised with how high the demand for these beautiful plants has been and we couldn't be happier!  Everyone wants milkweed it seems!  And even happier than us has been the Monarchs!  Soon after homing plants in host yards we began getting pictures of big, fat and happy Monarch caterpillars who seemed to have moved right in and started eating.  Yay!  

We even managed to salvage some caterpillars who weren't hanging out in the best of locations and we brought them inside and reared them by hand  -- a super fun thing to do with kids AND takes the baby caterpillars out of harm's way until they cocoon.  We snapped some pics of the whole cocoon to release process (it takes about 2 weeks) and thought we'd share them here because really, it's so awesome.

Fat and happy Monarch tucked away in his chrysalis.  See the gold beads around the seam??  Seriously cool.

Fat and happy Monarch tucked away in his chrysalis.  See the gold beads around the seam??  Seriously cool.

Freshly hatched, wings still squishy!  This is the coolest part because you can watch the Monarch filling its wings with fluid and watch them get fuller and fuller.  AWESOME!

Freshly hatched, wings still squishy!  This is the coolest part because you can watch the Monarch filling its wings with fluid and watch them get fuller and fuller.  AWESOME!

Almost all filled out!

Almost all filled out!


Getting ready to say goodbye!

Getting ready to say goodbye!

Take a rest!

Take a rest!

Resting up on some milkweed before hitting the skies!

Resting up on some milkweed before hitting the skies!

Summer, summer, festivals, festivals....

It's starting to get warm, the days are getting longer, the flowers are blooming and one's thoughts start turning to the big S.   IT'S ALMOST SUMMERTIME YOU GUYS!  After a decidedly wicked winter, this town couldn't be more ready to shed the blankets in favour of bikinis, lose the layers in favour of lakes, and throw open the windows to our summer festivals!  

Just in time for the rising temperatures comes all the lineups for a summertime of festival fun!  Looking to spend your time soaking up the sun and all the best new music too?  Look no further than your own back door!

Now, of course Sudbury has a whole slew of great festivals but us Copperworkers do have our favourites, starting with the Grandaddy of them all and Canada's longest running folk music festival - the Northern Lights Festival Boreal.  I've been going to this one for as long as I can remember and it will always hold a special place in my wee little nostalgic heart.  Back in my gypsy hippie younger days I'd leave the grounds with my heart heavy with new music and my arms heavy with flowery dresses and spangly silver bracelets.  These days, it's all about the face-painting tent (cuz my little gal can sniff out a face-painter within a 5 mile radius of her), summer afternoons in the grass and frosty treats.  I'm not much for the late nights anymore but with this year's headliner being Sarah Harmer I might make an exception.  She's always so great at this festival and hard to pass up.  Combine that with Dan Mangan and PGW and I'm already packing my wagon.

For a full list of this year's lineup click here and for tickets click here.

When you're done recovering from NLFB, air out your sleeping bags and pack for the River and Sky Music and Camping Festival.  One of the newer festivals to the area at just 7 years old, it packs just as much punch as the oldest around.  What was once a small festival that felt like it was put on just for us now draws an audience from all over the province.  There's music on the beach, music by the river, music in the trees, more bugs than I've ever seen anywhere and the some of the best bush coffee I've ever consumed.  It's a bit crowded and we never get any sleep but it's hard to beat the sense of community that comes with this festival.  Everyone is smiling, the children are dirty and the music is always second to none.  This year, the big draw for me is the Hayden.  I've seen him at a number of festivals over the years and I've yet to find a more quintessential festival experience than listening to Hayden under a starry summer sky.  Trust me, there's nothing better.  Add Black Mountain to the mix and I'm already picking out the best dress for dancing.

(and yes, I know my R&S thumbnail pic is from the old venue but it also happens to be my nostalgic favourite.  I was super pregnant and knew everyone and it felt like home)

For a full lineup click here and for tickets click here.

The newest kid on the block is of course Up Fest.  And not the one in the U.K even!  It's gonna happen right here in Sudbury for the very first time this August!  We've always pined for more public art in this city and now there's a whole festival for just that very thing.  Large scale murals happening in real time, music in the streets, big fat art installations??  Be still my arty heart!  From someone who has zero artistic ability whatsoever, I can't wait to sit back and watch it all unfold around me in our little downtown.  I think this festival means BIG things for our city and I cannot wait to take part and show my daughter what can happen when people get together to make things beautiful.

For all things Up Fest click here.

 

So start digging out your sunscreen and festival hats once again.  This summer is going to keep you busy and pink-cheeked right up until the leaves fall.

Small Projects, Big Impact

We’ve been writing a lot lately about spring cleanings and season changes and fresh starts and in the spirit of that I wanted to write about the culmination of a supremely cool local initiative announced this week.

You may have already heard about the Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury’s “Project Impact” but if not here’s the deal in a nutshell.  Basically CLS had a small pool of money and invited the public to both contribute to the general pool of dollars as well as submit small projects for funding.  The projects had to be focused on community improvements, environmental initiatives and lifestyle improvements and could not exceed $500.  Once everything was submitted, the community voted for the projects they wanted and the most votes won.  Plain and simple.

Now obviously I like this idea for the simple fact that these projects are all centered around making things better, or prettier or more sustainable in our community but what I also loved was this whole idea of participatory funding & budgeting.  Community members deciding how to spend a pool of public money and even contributing to the pot if they so desired.  Putting the emphasis on the people to decide how to best spend money in their own neighbourhoods, making all of us accountable for these projects in a way that I don’t know this city has really ever done before.   Also, one of the coolest thing to come out of the voting results was not only how many people voted but also how many people voted for projects that were not even earmarked for their own neighbourhoods or even their districts.  People still saw the value of a mural in Capreol even if they live in Dowling.  We so often hear about how people don’t care what happens outside of their own corner of this city but obviously we do.  We want the city to be beautiful no matter what part of it we call home.    We want kids to have beautiful parks to play in even if we don’t have kids of our own.  People recognize that projects like these serve to benefit the city as a whole,  regardless of where they take place.  If a mural is painted in Capreol, maybe someone in the South End will see it and want one in their neighbourhood.  Plant a butterfly garden in Ryan Heights and the pollinators will spread that loveliness across the city.  Show school children how to create animal sanctuaries at school and they will bring that knowledge and desire home with them. 

Beauty follows beauty. 

This summer will see all these projects come to fruition and I can’t wait to pack up my daughter and visit each one of these new sights.  We’re even going to get our hands dirty and not only get our own Project Impact inatiative up and running (more info on that in the coming weeks) but also help out some of the other projects too.   Many of these folks need volunteers to get their project done so be sure and visit the Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury page and see how you can get involved too.

I can’t help but think that a similar process should be put into place for the slush funds managed by each individual city councilor.  Allowing each ward to submit ideas on how to spend that money and then having members vote on those projects would create such a sense of community as well as ownership and accountability among the citizens.  Imagine the variety of things that could be accomplished?  This project was proof that you can make a small amount of money go a very, very long way.  Especially when you consider that a lot of the projects that didn’t get CLS funding are moving ahead anyway -- projects like the Little Free Library and the yarn bombing of Alexander Public School.  People put the time into submitting these projects for consideration and so folks are still finding ways to get them done even without this funding. How’s that for building community partnerships?

Here’s hoping we can find a way to offer Project Impact every year.  Our city can only be the better for it.

For a full list of all the projects that received funding please visit the Coaliton for a Liveable Sudbury website or visit their Facebook page.  The Project Impact Facebook page can be found here.

Here's some press that we got too!

Sudbury Star - Small Projects Look to Make Big Impact in Sudbury

Northern Life - Group Funds Small Projects That Make a Big Impact

Sudbury Media Co-op -- Nine Community Projects Receive Funding

 

 

Drivin' on 9...

It’s not really a secret that I am an obsessive planner.  Just ask my friends about going camping with me.  A month before we even set foot in the bush guaranteed I will have already inquired about where people plan on setting up their tents, will we be cooking together or just taking care of our individual families, if we are cooking together what is everyone bringing, do we all need to bring dishware or can we consolidate, when is everyone planning on arriving at the site etc etc.  The idea of showing up somewhere and “winging it” causes me an insurmountable amount of stress. 

As a result of this, it’s no surprise that a giant dustyAmerican cross-country roadtrip, no matter how badly I want to do it, has never been something I’ve attempted with any real seriousness.  I could never just drive until I was tired and then pick a random place to crash.  What if it’s awful?  What if the place you pick ends up being 10 minutes from something amazing and you totally miss it cuz you didn’t bother to research it ahead of time?  If there are cool things to be seen, I’d need to make sure I was seeing them and the amount of nerdy planning that would have to take place for me to be a willing and happy captive passenger for weeks on end is just not capable by the normal person I fear.  Not even by an obsessive planner like me.

Well didn’t I just about fall over when I stumbled across the genius that is Randal S. Olson.   My new best friend Randal is a 4th year Computer Science major at Michigan State University.  Every week, as a lark, he tackles a new data analysis problem and he even posts 2 new data visualizations every day on his Twitter account.  Asleep yet?  Hang in there, this gets better really soon.

His biggest “claim to fame” so far has been creating an optimal search strategy for finding Waldo in the “Where’s Waldo?” puzzles.  I know right?  Super nerd.  I’m crushing so hard though.  (Sidenote: if you totally DO want to know the optimal search strategy for finding Waldo you can find it here).

But blowing his Waldo strategy right out of the water is his algorithm that has planned the most optimal road trip across the continental United States, thus removing all the guess work from figuring out how to see everything worth seeing without back-tracking or criss-crossing all over the place.  He even had rules!  The trip must make at least one stop in all 48 states in the contiguous U.S, the trip would only make stops at National Natural Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Parks, or National Monuments, and the car must be taken by car and never leave the U.S.  (Honestly, rules for a fictitious trip?  Amazing.)

Now there’s a ton more stuff he took into consideration and a bunch more techy mumbo-jumbo involved (obviously) and if you want to read about every last detail you can find it all HERE.  In the meantime, here is the graphic illustrating what his algorithm came up with once he took all that aforementioned mumbo-jumbo into account. 

One of the coolest parts about this is that it is designed not to have a specific starting point!  So you could pick this up from wherever you happened to be and travel in any direction.  The only downside I guess is that the timeframe on a trip like this is about 2-3 months and I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of time.  Maybe this could be my “Retirement in an RV” end goal or something.

Then, if stopping at landmarks and points of interest doesn’t turn your crank, he’s EVEN done a similar plan for visiting all the most popular US cities

He’s totally done all the work for you.  As in, you could leave tomorrow.  Just in time for the start of roadtrip weather!

Continental U.S not your thing?  He totally did one for Europe too (which if you’ve ever spent time driving the highways of Italy makes this option sound infinitely more appealing than the North American highway offerings, at least for me anyway).  Want to try your hand at South America?  Here you go.

Want to customize your own roadtrip?  He’s given you all the nerdy nerd tools to do it yourself here.

See what I mean?  This kinda thing is what gives me a big ol’Type A, super planning nerd-gasm. 

Finding someone I want to spend that much time trapped in a car with though (or someone who wants to be stuck with me)?  That's something no amount of computery computing could help me with.   

Location, location, location...

As we’ve all been painfully aware, it’s been about -1 billion here the last few weeks.  So OF COURSE we’d get the call to pick up a location scout right smack at the beginning of a Prehistoric-style Northern ice age.

For those of you who may not know, a location scout is a survey of local locations that could be used in an upcoming film or television project.  Basically we get a script, we read it, we make a list of locations, and then we hit the road in search of them.  It can be an incredibly arduous process and if you’re unprepared you can waste a ton of time and resources chasing down what you need.  We’ve been locations scouting on and off for about 10 years now – we started back when you’d approach someone about using their business in a movie and people looked at you like you just asked to sleep in their bed.  These days you barely get through your opening sentence and people cut you off with “Yeah yeah, they shot here last year too.”

So although this area is rapidly becoming more familiar with the concept of location scouts knocking on their doors, you still have to tread lightly.   With that said, this is my little “how to scout locations in Sudbury” breakdown:

 

1.     Prep, prep & more prep.   Seriously.  Better to spend a few days in the office researching, sending out feelers, and staring at maps and planning your attack before even setting foot outside.  Otherwise you will end up criss-crossing the region and wasting piles of time.  Try to work in sections rather than bounce around all over.

2.     Bring a partner.  It’s infinitely easier to hop in and out of the car quickly to grab shots than having to find a parking space etc etc etc.   The word of the day is “speed” and anything that helps you move faster is key.

3.     Ask permission.  Now admittedly, I’ve absolutely done my share of “snap and run” in order to give a producer an idea of a location possibility but ultimately if you want proper coverage and a true sense of what you’re looking at, make the call and get someone to show you around properly.  Not only will your shots be better but it’s also a chance to get insider information from your guide.  For example, it could be the perfect location but if you don’t speak to someone in charge, you’d never know that the property owner wouldn’t allow filming for all the money in the world.  Now you’ve wasted time on a useless location.  See point #1.

4.     Fuel.  For both you and your vehicle.  Seems simple enough but you’d be surprised.  Car-wise – sometimes you get on a roll and before you know it you’ve traversed 100kms of backcountry farm roads on less than ¼ tank of gas.  You do not want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere with no cell service trying to find someone with a jerry can of fuel.  See point #1.   Person-wise – eat and eat often.  You can’t always stop for lunch at the perfect time so if you find yourself near food, take advantage of it.  And pack snacks.  When the scout is happening fast, you must let it happen and stopping to eat isn’t always an option.

5.     Make contacts.  Before you head out on the road your first calls should be to trusted and valued contacts.  People who know everything and everyone.  For me, those people are 1) my city film rep and 2) my Dad.  My city rep knows all the right people to talk to for permissions, tips on friendly and not-so-friendly locations etc.  My Dad has lived here for 70 years and just knows everything and everyone and always has suggestions.  Especially out of the way spots in the bush, lakes etc.  Trying to do this job without people like that is an uphill battle.  But do it long enough and you’ll find them.

6.     Dress appropriately.  Again, seems obvious but you’d be surprised.  Winter or summer you need to be dressed for the elements because guaranteed you will find yourself in the middle of a huge windswept farm field on a day with a -50 C wind-chill (with bare hands because don’t forget you’re working a fancy camera) or standing on the edge of an exposed rock quarry on a day that is +45 C.  These have both happened to me.  Multiple times.  Something else to consider?  Often you are going into people’s homes or businesses so don’t dress like a hobo.  You have to be presentable.  Remember you are trying to get people to trust you enough to hand over their home. 

7.     Extra, extra extra.  Bring extra camera batteries, extra memory cards, extra phone chargers, extra pens, and extra copies of ALL your paperwork.  Being caught at a location with a suddenly dead camera battery and no replacement is amateur hour folks.

8.     Reporting.  This may not be for everyone but it is for me.  If I’m going to scout a private home alone I always like to let someone know the address.  Because you never know.

9.     Build a kit.  Like the aforementioned “extra stuff” you should have a kit of other stuff you will most likely need readily at hand.  Think pads of paper, pens, a wireless device of some kind (phone, tablet etc) so that you can do Internet searches on the go, check maps & weather etc, PILES of business cards.  You don’t want to be missing anything.

10.  The last and most important tip?  BE NICE.  It seems so stupid to point it out but you’d honestly be so surprised.  I live in a neighbourhood that gets used for filming often enough so I’ve had more than a couple scouts knock on my door that just rub me the wrong way.  Also if you are a Sudbury resident, the chances of you knowing the location owner in some way, shape or form is super likely.  This last scout, I walked into a house and on the wall was a wedding photo of a friend I’ve known since university.  It was her father’s house.  If I’d walked in there with a big ol’ pushy film attitude it would’ve been bad for me professionally as well as personally. You will have to live with this people long after the film has come and gone and you don’t want to burn a location with a crappy attitude.  Be polite, make the small talk, don’t rush them and just be a respectable human being.  If you set a time for an appointment, be on time.   If they say to call rather than email, pick up the phone.  Take off your shoes.  Don’t touch their things.  Simple basic stuff but it could make the difference between getting the location and not.  And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, the owner will sometimes offer you a glass of brandy.   True story.

Drywall and Painting and Carpet, OH MY!

For those of you who religiously follow our social media outlets you’ll know that Copperworks HQ has been undergoing a fair amount of renovations these last couple of months.  We knocked a whole in our kitchen wall and took over some space next door, adding about 700 square feet to our humble kingdom.  You might also know that Copperworker Mike is quite handy and tends to handle most of our internal renos that don’t involve detailed electrical work etc (that’s right ladies, he’s tall AND handy around the house).  As a result of Mike’s handyman abilities and the fact that the holidays tend to be a quieter time around here, we decided “Hey let’s totally tackle the renos ourselves cuz it’ll be fun and easy and we have SPARE TIME!”

………..

Fast forward to a good couple of months later and we were about ready to kill ourselves.  Imagine the all the contents of a TV series moving into your storage space.  Think  all the wardrobe, all the props, big set pieces, grip/electric gear, the locations gear – all of it.  It’s likely more than you think it is.  Then imagine moving all of that out and into your boardroom “temporarily” while you work on renovating the storage space (think demo, think full paint job, think new flooring, think wall construction, think new doors, think supply delays, think injuries).  Then moving all that BACK into the storage space.  Also imagine trying to, you know, run a business amongst all of that.

This is how a lot of the conversations have gone these last few weeks:

“Hey, does anyone remember the last time we could even WALK INTO the boardroom?”

“Hey, remember when we could make a sandwich in our kitchen without having to first move paint cans and brushes out of the way?”

“Hey remember when we could get to our microwave without having to squeeze into a tiny space between a pile of drywall and doors to do so?”

“Hey when was the last time everything in the office wasn’t covered in drywall dust?”

“Hey remember when we could get to the photocopier without tripping over 100 boxes of random stuff?”

“Hey remember when we didn’t have to apologize to people for the state of our office?”

“Hey who sat in paint and then sat in our chair?”

Well yesterday all that changed my friends!!!!!

As of yesterday afternoon we now have full and glorious access to our beautiful boardroom and it’s lovely giant bank of sun-filled windows.  We could do cartwheels in there if we so desired.  We can actually HAVE MEETINGS you guys! And best of all, we can finally get to our TV again.

We’ve still got loads to do but for some reason the liberation of the boardroom seems like we just reached the summit of Everest.  The satisfaction was palpable.  Like a glass of whiskey after a day in the snow.

We still can’t really get to our microwave but who really cares?  That science oven kills all the vitamins in our food anyway.

 

 

A Year in Pages

Last year around this time I was tasked with my weekly blog post.  As the year end was chasing me down, I found myself thinking of very little else except all the great books I read throughout the year.   So when faced with some wicked writer’s block, I decided “If you can’t beat’em, join’em” and churned out my Top 10 Favourite Reads of the year.  I see a similar situation staring me in the face as we speak so all you non-readers best look away cuz it’s about to get all bookish up in here.

These are my Top 10 Favourite Reads of 2014 (*note not my top books written in 2014, just my top books READ in 2014).

“Life After Life” by Kate Atkinson (2014)

I haven’t read a book this mesmerizing in a really, really long time. And sure lots of folks have tried the “let’s jump around time periods” methods before but Atkinson nails it in such a way that your heart breaks anew with every chapter.   It’s got love, war-time Europe and even Hitler.  If you need something that will break a run of ho-hum books, pick this one.  Then read it again.  And then again. (*Note: if you can score the version with the fox on the cover even better)

 

 “The Light Between Oceans” by M.L Stedman (2013)

As a parent, this book tore my heart out in a HUGE way.   A baby washes up onshore near a lighthouse into the arms of a grieving and childless couple.  I felt an actual physical pull to these characters and found myself with tears free-flowing late into the night as I read.  You can see the whole story laid out before you, you sense what’s coming and yet “predictable” is the last word you’d pick to describe it.  This book was pure brilliance and heartache and ultimately the biggest love story I read all year.

 

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman (2014)

Continuing with the “ocean” themed books,  I tore through this little gem by Gaiman in one wonderful little sitting.  His story is pure magic and fantasy and I can see picking this up on snowy afternoons for years to come.  This would be a great read for pre-teens looking for a story with a bit more meat on its bones too – it’s got weird creepy neighbours, a scary nanny, and things reaching down from the night sky to pluck you straight off the ground.  Sometimes I think he can do no wrong whether he’s writing for kids or adults.  In the end, I doubt the audience really matters at all.  He is magic for all ages.

“Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey (2012)

Besides having the most beautiful name I’ve ever heard, Eowyn Ivey has also created the most beautiful version of a folktale you could ever hope to read.  1920’s Alaskan homesteaders fashion themselves a child from the snow and the result is Faina, a girl born of the ice and trees, travels with a constant fox companion and disappears with the spring.  I mean, honestly, how can you not want to read this book already??  A more perfect winter read I have yet to find.

 

“The Orenda” by Joseph Boyden (2014)

As confessed in last year’s list, I am a recent Boyden bandwagon joiner and have been devouring one book after another since discovering him last year.  Obviously for me, this one is no different.    For sure, it’s a tough read and there were more than a few parts where some deep-breaths were required for me to get through but for every scene of graphic violence there were also scenes of utter poetry and total silence.  His is the stuff that rattles around in your head for a good long while.

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt (2013)

Okay so much like my unjustified snobby-ness for the “Canada Reads” books, I feel equally snobby towards the “Heather’s Picks” at Chapters.   They all seem to begin with the description “A tragic coming of age story about a boy in (insert country name here) struggling to come to terms with (insert personal struggle/injury/overbearing family member/political strife here).”   I can’t even process them anymore.  Anyway, you had to be living under a rock to not have seen this book everywhere last year, and I mean EVERYWHERE.  Heather was hocking in on TV, in every magazine, on every page of the Chapters website and you practically tripped over the giant pyramid of “Goldfinch” books when you walked in the store.  I picked it up for my Mom as a gift – she was going on a long sunny vacation and I thought the sheer size of this book would make it a perfect contender for extended marathon reading sessions on the beach.  Long story short, she forgot to pack it, I was house-sitting and without a book to read so I picked it up and then never put it down.  I admit it.  Heather was right and I was so, so wrong.  This book was OUTstanding.   I guess I can admit that maybe a Pullitzer Prize cancels out my Heather bias?

“The House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allende (2005)

Remember last year when I said that when one of your favourite people shoves a book at you, you better damn well read it?  Well that happened again.  From the shelf that brought “Arcadia” into my life, came this big giant sweeping epic Latin American opera.  It’s got multiple generations of just wonderful witchy ladies, a dramatic patriarch named Esteban, political intrigue and a giant dog.  It’s a hit on all levels really.  I couldn’t get enough.

 “The Sharper the Knife, the Less You Cry” by Kathleen Flinn (2008)

A super fun little memoir of a woman who dropped everything, left behind her American life to attend the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.  Who hasn’t had the fantasy of doing that very thing at least once or twice in their life?  There’s nothing about this book that reinvents the wheel, she doesn’t have any real life-changing advice, but as a straight-up enjoyable lifestyle read, this book had it for me.  Added bonus???  It comes with heaps of amazing recipes from her time in Paris.

 “The Son” by Phillip Meyer (2013)

This book was the book that broke a bad streak of reads for me.  I was in such a funk and seemed to pick up one unsatisfying read after another.  I actually bought this for my husband for Christmas in 2013 but never thought it would end up on my side of the bed (I judged a book by its cover and thought it looked too much like a western.  I hate westerns).  It was out of pure desperation that I picked it up and honestly thought I’d be tossing it onto the pile of aforementioned bad books.  This book had other plans for me though and resurrected my faith in the written word.  It’s epic and sprawling and violent and sad and dusty and beautiful.   My only wish is that I hadn’t read it the same year as “The Orenda” because I think Boyden handled a similar subject and did it better.  Still, an outstanding read all the same.

“The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton (2014)

It’s the 1600’s, it’s Amsterdam, she’s a new bride in a new house, there’s a strange husband she’s never met, there’s a creepy sister-in-law and there’s a dollhouse that’s mirroring everything happening in her real-life.   I adored this book!!  Loads of mystery and oddities,  loads of betrayal,  loads of desperation – a great read to get lost in.  I’ll be searching out some other material from Burton to be sure. (this book came to me from my new Goodreads app – are any of you on there??  I’d love to snoop your bookshelves…)

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Honourable Mentions

 “A Red Herring Without Mustard” (2011)“I Am Halfsick of Shadows” (2012) by Alan Bradley

I didn’t include these in my Top 10 because really, they are hardly great works of fiction worth being included in a year end list BUT as a series, I cannot say enough about how much I enjoy the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley.  They’re such fun and eccentric in a Wes Anderson kind of way.  I hope he never stops writing them.

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So thanks for humouring my love of books and lists of books and talking about books etc etc.  This is always a hard list to compile and this year was no exception as, despite a few duds, I thumbed my way through some truly beautiful new books and revisited more than a few old favourites.

What did you love this year???  My notepad is ready...